Georgia hosts Regional meeting on surveillance and control of leishmaniasis

Leishmaniasis is a vector-borne disease with an underestimated or undetermined burden in most countries of the WHO European Region. A WHO Regional meeting on leishmaniasis held in Tbilisi, Georgia, on 1618 April 2013, gave technical experts and other stakeholders from countries most affected by the disease the opportunity to:

  • report on the present situation on leishmaniasis;
  • share experiences on surveillance and control of leishmaniasis; 
  • review existing practical modalities on dealing with leishmaniasis; 
  • identify problems encountered in the participating countries; and
  • agree on a strategic framework for leishmaniasis control in the Balkan, south Caucasian, central Asian and eastern European countries as well as in Kazakhstan and Turkey.

Participants at the meeting included Dr Guenael Rodier (Director of Communicable Diseases, Health Security and Environment, WHO/Europe), technical experts Dr Mikhail Ejov (WHO/Europe) and Dr Daniel Argaw Dagne (WHO headquarters) and representatives from selected countries in the Region.

Greater focus on the disease is needed

Leishmaniasis is a neglected and poorly reported disease. In 2007 the World Health Assembly Resolution WHA60.13 and the World Health Organization Expert Committee Technical Report highlighted the urgent need for updated information on the extent of the problem related to leishmaniasis within the WHO European Region that can pave the way for developing appropriate policies and strategies to deal with leishmaniasis at Regional and country levels.

Geographic spread in the European Region

Clinical symptoms of the leishmaniases parasitic diseases can be cutaneous, mucocutaneous or visceral. Cases of visceral leishmaniasis (VL) are reported in countries of western Europe, the Balkan region, central Asia, south Caucasus and Turkey, with an overwhelming majority (nearly 75 per cent) found in Albania, Georgia, Italy and Spain. In recent years, the number of adult VL patients has been rising as co-infections with HIV, which are difficult to diagnose and manage. At present, almost 80 per cent of the total reported cutaneous leishmanisis (CL) cases in the Region occur in Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.